I’m sure Meade Alcorn is rolling over in his grave.
I grew up on an estate on the Connecticut River in Suffield where my dad was the caretaker. The town was run by Republicans. They ran everything: the government, the schools, the churches, the library and Little League. They were well-educated, cultured and kind. We looked up to them. Suffield was so Republican that even the chairman of the national party, Meade Alcorn, lived there.
Meade would probably be a Democrat today. Most of the offspring of those 1950s Suffield Republicans are. Connecticut’s moderate Republicans, what they used to call “Rockefeller Republicans,” have pretty much disappeared, chased out by a national GOP that is more a cult than a party.
To be a Republican in Connecticut today, especially an elected one, you need to defend an indefensible President and the far-right people who control him. You have to abandon most of what made the Alcorn crowd such respected community leaders. You have to hate government and vote to savage it. And you even attack the wealthy when they join government to make life better for people.
That’s what happened recently when GOP leaders blew up the innovative education partnership between Gov. Ned Lamont and Dalio Philanthropies. The $300 million effort would’ve brought a historic focus on improving education for children of our inner cities. Those are the same cities that rank in the country’s top ten of worst urban conditions –IV drug use, low birth weight babies, school dropouts. Instead of those sad distinctions, Connecticut would have become a national model.
These days even creative public/private partnerships are easy targets for political demagoguery.
Republican leaders first attacked the partnership for not being transparent enough. Republicans worried about transparency? Really? Of course, it’s in the nature of these quite delicate alliances between private people and public servants that not everything is revealed to everyone, immediately.
The GOP leaders pounced again after reports that the director of the effort, yet to be chosen, might be paid as much as $300,000 annually. That figure is probably well below market rates for someone who oversees a such a massive effort. So the partnership opponents managed to scare away candidates who possessed national and even global credentials in education innovation.
What a pity. Other than voting against spending for the cities, what are the Connecticut Republicans’ ideas on how to save them? And why would anyone expect more wealthy philanthropists to come forward to help?
Toby Moffett is a former member of Congress from Connecticut.